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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Grist for the Mill » Astroid Mining?

   
Author Topic: Astroid Mining?
Crystal Stevens
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That was one of the headlines on my 'puter's home page a few days ago. I can't remember the billionaires' names who were involved in this project, but they were well known and highly successful businessmen. If they pull this off, we could be using materials from our astroid belt sometime in the near future. Good news or bad? Who can tell? But it does sound like one more thing that might step from science fiction to science fact.
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pdblake
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James Cameron and Google I think.
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Crystal Stevens
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Yep, that was it.
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MattLeo
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Peter Diamandes, I think.

I don't think this is step toward the rugged individualist spacer/prospector future of science fiction. It's a step toward the more plausible future where asteroid mining is barely profitable and you don't want to waste money hauling a human being from asteroid to asteroid along with what you need to keep him alive and sane.

Diamandes is an important *kind* of person; he dreams big, and he gets other people enthused about those dreams. But his track record on actually getting space things done is somewhat spotty.

In any case, asteroid mining in our solar system is a total economic crock until such time we have propulsion systems an order of magnitude more efficient and orders of magnitude cheaper than we've got. It certainly wouldn't be worth going to the asteroid belt to get the materials that are abundant there: silicates, sulfides, carbon, nickel and iron. Even if there were kg sized lumps of pure platinum floating between Mars and Jupiter, it wouldn't be profitable to go there and bring them back.

The cost of retrieving a thing from interplanetary space is at present dominated by the cost of changing its velocity and position to match Earth. Until space thrust is literally dirt cheap, the one thing worth retrieving from interplanetary space is knowledge.

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Robert Nowall
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Here's a story on it:

http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/04/24/company-aims-to-strike-it-rich-by-mining-asteroids/

I can't say much about the ins-and-outs of making something like that work, or whether it's even possible...but it would be nice if it would happen...

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LDWriter2
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Very interesting and as I said on another thread good fodder for a story or three.


And I was just thinking about how there could be so many different ideas that would come from this one idea.

A novel about them working in it, having failures and finally success.
Or they find something man made or alien made.
Or they find something natural but totally unexpected
Or After a while they have to fight off pirates who have their own robot probes. I kinda like this idea, it's remote controlled probe against remote controlled probe.

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snapper
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The reason why this won't be plausible for the forseeable future is there is no good way to transport material to and from the enormous gravity well of Earth.

I think what we need is a space elevator. The technology is there to where we should be able to accomplish this. Rockets are too expensive. An elevator would drop the price of a payload considerably.

[ April 26, 2012, 08:50 PM: Message edited by: snapper ]

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LDWriter2
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I think the idea is to keep the stuff in space, at least the water, and sell it to stations and moon colonies.

But in either case they may have an idea for that.

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Robert Nowall
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Sometimes you do something just to "prove the technology." They tried out a lot of things on TV in the early days before they decided on what did and didn't work...
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LDWriter2
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Here's another article dealing with this subject. It says about the something as the first one but I think in emphases how much money could be made more and how to use the water.

http://tinyurl.com/goldandwater

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Brendan
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If they go through the Lagrange points, the cost of transporting the material around the solar system is fairly low - but there remains the cost of getting it from there to Earth, as snapper said. However, if the customer is in orbit, e.g. they are developing a space station at a Lagrange point, then it may be quite valuable.
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